Science. Some love it. Some hate it. Others don’t really understand it. But science can be fun. That was the overall message of a presentation done at St. Mary’s High School recently by Dr. Gabriel Font, professor of physics at the Air Force Academy.
“The purpose of the ‘show’ is to show that physics in particular and science as a whole is easy to work with, understandable by anybody, and fun to play with,” Font said. “It simply requires a curious mind, a questioning attitude, and some persistence.”
Font is no stranger to school presentations. He has done presentations at every school his daughter Maria has attended. Maria Font is currently a senior at St. Mary’s High School and Dr. Font has spoken at the school twice before.
But this year’s presentation was a little different. Font said that it is important to show the older students the tremendous questions that science is trying to answer. That is why this year’s presentation included discussions about collapsing stars, black holes, dark matter, dark energy, the big bang, and the nature of reality.
“High school students are usually more interested in the large questions than the small ones,” Font said. “God has put the world together in wonderfully complex ways. Our striving to understand it is simply a search for truth, indeed a search for Him.”
Font said for the lower grades he likes to show that it is fun to play with the phenomena that God has created. Each part of creation, Font said, can teach us something about the Creator.
“In the age of the mountains, we learn about his patience. In the complexity of DNA, we learn about his attention to the smallest things, including us. In the weather of the seasons, we learn about his fidelity and faithfulness. In the variety of animals, we learn about his immense creativity and joy. In the nuclear process in stars and in galaxies we learn about his power and majesty,” Font said. “In fact, our medicine and engineering are simply sharing in God’s creativity.”
Font said that while science and engineering are not easy subjects, they are exciting and filled with purpose. And the message Font strives to give to the students is this, “Go create a whole new world! You can do it! Anyone can!”
Physics teacher Suzanne Tibbits said the change in the presentation resonated with the students, allowing them to see how the scientific laws they are learning about from their textbooks apply to cutting-edge scientific research being done today.
“It’s nice for them to have topics to discuss that are still being studied,” Tibbits said. “It’s important to see the current research that is happening. It allows them to see how the (scientific) laws are being taken into the future.”
Carina Friend, a junior at St. Mary’s, said for her the presentation was inspiring.
“It renewed my interest in science,” she said. “While I don’t want to go into the physics world, it was interesting to see how it relates to chemistry and how it applies to real situations.”
Dr. Font’s daughter Maria is, of course, no stranger to his presentations. And while she is more interested in biology, Maria still enjoyed the presentation and thought it was cool.
“It was cool talking about stars and the universe expanding,” she said. “It’s truly revolutionary science, applying it to things we don’t know anything about.”
It was the revolutionary science the Tibbits wanted her students to learn more about. “At the Air Force Academy they have a finger on the pulse of what is really happening in the scientific world,” she said.
The demonstrations Font does at schools involve electricity, magnetism, heat, motion. He teaches about these topics using liquid nitrogen, Bunsen burners, Tesla coils, lasers, and spin platforms. But for Font, science all comes back to the Creator.
“It is really a joy to figure out how something works; how God put the world together,” he said. “It is even more joyful to figure out how to put it to work to improve people’s lives. In science, medicine, and engineering, we get to create a whole new world, open new horizons for humanity, improve the way humanity lives. These shows are meant to show kids a little of what is possible and, hopefully, interest them in pursuing a higher calling; a calling where they can change the world.”
By Amy G. Partain, Communciations Associate
St. Mary’s High School
Below, Dr. Gabriel Font demonstrates the fun and faith-building possibilities of science during a demonstration at St. Mary's High School.